Should I be Worried? Understanding My Child’s Anger

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B y D a v i d  A . C r e n s h a w PhD, ABPP, RPT-S

“He is usually a caring and sensitive child, but when he explodes in rage he is like a monster.” The frustrated mother was describing her 8-year old son, Michael, a second grader who is liked by his teachers and his classmates – except when he has a “meltdown”. Michael is typical of children who display a pattern of impulsive-reactive aggression (IRA). These children acquire various diagnostic labels when they are evaluated by mental health professionals – ADHD, Oppositional/Defiant Disorder, or Disruptive Behavior Disorder. However, as Ross Greene (2005) explains, regardless of diagnostic labeling, the two primary features shared by children with IRA are low frustration tolerance and inflexibility. These children are not exhibiting a character flaw or a moral weakness, but simply manifesting subtle neurodevelopmental deficits related to difficulties in emotion and impulse regulation. They tend to be overwhelmed by their strong emotions and often experience emotion in an all-or-none manner, either feeling nothing at all, or experiencing anger as red-hot rage – with nothing between. In other words, they have not developed the capacity for modulation. (Click this link Crenshaw Article Sep06 (1) to read the rest of the article.)

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